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Appointing Pruitt as EPA Head a Poisonous Mistake

David Welsh, Staff Writer

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 In recent months, our dear leader has made a name for himself by seeming to base his cabinet picks on sheer irony alone. The pick for the Department of Energy? Rick Perry, a man who famously said that he wanted to abolish that very Department. The pick for the Department of Education? Betsy Devos — on top of having no government or even education experience whatsoever, she has also been a public advocate for funneling money out of public schools and into private and charter schools (washingtonpost.com).

  The list of unqualified and contradictory picks for key government positions by Trump stretches to the floor and down the block, but it is his choice for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA for short, which really keeps me up at night. One would think that if you were going to lead an agency tasked with holding companies accountable for polluting our environment, you would actually want to what’s the phrase? do those things. Former Oklahoma Attorney General and new EPA head Scott Pruitt has sued the EPA itself no less than 14 times while in office, in order to weaken regulations protecting the state’s air and water in favor of protecting big business.

   Even during the rare moments he has softened his rhetoric against doing the job he’s been assigned to do, his words have been all but truthful. When pressed on his environmental record during his senate confirmation hearing, Pruitt struggled to come up with even a single instance where he fought on behalf of the environment, instead offering the case against Mahard Egg Farms. In 2011, the poultry factory in northeastern Oklahoma spilled hundreds of tons of chicken manure into the Illinois River, contaminating it for hundreds of miles and destroying innumerable aquatic habitats. First of all, the case against the farm was initiated by Pruitt’s predecessor, not him; second, instead of pushing a federal judge to prosecute the poultry company for polluting large swaths of Oklahoma and nearby states, he actively tried to quiet the matter, saying that the problem should be studied further before any action was taken (nytimes.com).

  While the EPA is dedicated to protecting our Earth from climate change and our people from poisons, Pruitt seems to walk around like it’s opposite day. Despite numerous findings on the contrary, he has twice blocked regulations to control mercury pollution in his state, despite common knowledge that it’s a dangerous neurotoxin. He even went so far as to argue that  “…the record does not support EPA’s findings that mercury… pose[s] public health hazards” (thenation.com).

  You’d be ignorant to believe that Pruitt would do anything but cripple and dissolve the EPA. “The head of the EPA is attempting to dismantle the agency only to leave the responsibility to the states. This opens the floodgates for state negligence and this isn’t okay,” said Senior Christian Bravo. Sure, here in sunny San Diego, global warming feels like just another Tuesday, and many people think that environmental policy should be left entirely up to state and local jurisdictions. In this chaotic and selfish America, we need effective federal government more than ever. If West Virginia decides to triple the amount of coal it burns and toss out any regulations that prevent it from doing so, all those greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals will clog the lungs of Kentucky kids, and there’s little that Kentucky could do to fix it. We need the EPA — to protect our birds, our beaches, our environment, and our people from corporations that care for little more than the bottom line.

  As we plunge further into the Trump administration’s tyranny and the fires of global warming, the debate rages on. I’m all for state rights and the government letting people do more or less what they want, but do you really want to live in a country where there’s no one making sure that the water we drink and the air we breathe is safe for consumption? And if someone as terrible as Pruitt is in charge, is it really better than no EPA at all? In a better world, the environment would be faithfully protected by a significantly smarter and more powerful EPA. Let’s just hope we all survive long enough to get to that world.

 

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Appointing Pruitt as EPA Head a Poisonous Mistake